This year, the Word on the Street festival returns with a new moniker—Word Vancouver—and a hugely varied schedule that runs at venues around town from September 25 to 29. As part of the runup, we asked some of the writers on the bill to tell us about the reading experiences that shaped them. Which book left deep impressions early on? Which one overhauled the way they see and think about the world, and set them on a path to a literary life?
Here’s what George Stanley told us. He’s the Vancouver-based poet behind After Desire, the latest of his eight books. He’ll be reading from it at 12:15 p.m. on September 29, in the fest’s Poetry Tent outside the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library.
The book that changed my life—the most important book I've ever read—didn't have anything to do with writing. It was Erik Erikson’s 1950 classic of developmental psychology, Childhood and Society. My own early childhood had been emotionally distraught, and subsequently I had come to feel that the pain and turmoil of those years had, in a deterministic way, marred/marked me for life.
In my late 30s I came across Erikson's book, and from Erikson I learned that even though the overall character of a particular stage of development (say, infancy) may be negative, there will still likely have been some happier moments interspersed in the gloom, and one can search these out in memory and reflect on them, as guideposts to emotional maturation. Reading Erikson's book was the beginning of a lifelong self-analysis that has given me increased hope and trust in life.
Mark Mushet photo